THE A-Z OF RUNNING FOR MUMS
Recently had a baby and struggling to balance parenthood with running? This essential A to Z of running for mums will set you in the right direction!
Your abdominal muscles go through a lot during pregnancy. This is normal: you’ve just grown a baby. You don’t need to stress about fitting back into your jeans right now (or ever – see ‘W’). However, your core is important when you return to running, to help with stability, strength and injury prevention. Moves such as the plank will benefit your running (only after your postnatal check-up).
As a new mum, your breasts go through a lot. Never mind the soreness – who knew you would be able to keep an actual human alive through the power of your left boob? In the early days, you might think you will forever more have a small human/breast pump attached to your mammaries, but I promise there will come a time when running will fit into your baby’s feeding schedule.
When this happens, make sure you get fitted for a new sports bra for maximum support, and you might find it more comfortable to run after feeding your baby. (NB: obviously breastfeeding can be tough and it’s also not for everyone. No judgment here.)
Yep, you’re going to need this if you start running (obviously if Dad’s with them, it’s simply called parenting).
You might find any self-doubt you harboured pre-kids vanishes once you’re a mum. Your body has MADE A HUMAN. You’re amazing. So yes, it goes without saying you can now smash that hill session/5K/marathon.
Suffering with baby blues and exhaustion? Exercise is a great way to get those endorphins (the happy hormone) kicking in. But if you think you may be suffering from post-natal depression it’s important to also seek professional support from your GP. However alone you feel, you are not. Mums everywhere have your back.
There is just something about the open road (or trail path) that is the antidote to batshit-crazy toddler behaviour and Peppa Pig on repeat. Run free!
You might have noticed that, along with the arrival of your bundle of joy, came Mum Guilt. Mum Guilt is all-pervasive and makes you feel like you’re doing a bad job most of the time. Guilt will tell you you’re ABANDONING your children if you go for a run. Here’s the thing: Mum Guilt is bullsh*t. So stop it in its tracks. Go for that run! You deserve it. In fact, running is the best antidote to Mum Guilt – many mums report they feel like a better parent after a good run.
If it’s offered, take it. Seriously. Looking after children is hard work. If a relative wants to help out so you can get some rest or me-time, who are you to stop them?
Take things slowly when returning to running post-birth. The hormone relaxin (which makes your joints more supple) can hang around in your body for up to six months, so do your strength and conditioning work to support your running.
Motherhood can sometimes feel like a bit of a slog, interspersed with intense joy. Running, too, can sometimes feel like a bit of a slog, interspersed with intense joy. Focus on the joy. It will get you through.
You will be. It gets easier (apparently).
You might now spend your days crouched on the floor, rolling the same fire engine back and forth for 57 minutes, with slug trails of snot down your top and play dough mashed into your jeans. But you know what? Those little arms wrapped around your neck? You’ve never known love like it.
This is wonderful for your mental health. Mindfulness is simply the act of being fully present – and running can be a great way to get into the habit. While running, simply focus on your run – the sound of your footfall; your breathing; your surroundings. It will help you accept what is in other areas of your life too – even if what is is a stack of laundry and a toddler clinging to your leg at all times.
Eat for health (fruit and veg, grains, pulses, dairy and good fats, such as oily fish). And sometimes, eat to get you through the 4pm Witching Hour of a tantruming toddler, a grizzly baby and the background lilt of CBeebies (a whole packet of Jaffa Cakes. While hiding in the kitchen. Washed down with some gin).
Share your passion for running with your kids! It’s a family-friendly activity, after all – babies of six months or more can come along in a running buggy; children can scoot or cycle alongside you; and when they’re older still, they will love to run with you (eventually they’ll race past you. Try not to feel depressed at their youthful exuberance).
This will be with your GP six to eight weeks after birth. Hold off strenuous exercise until you’ve had the all clear.
You might not get to be alone often – even a trip to the loo is an interactive experience for the whole family, what with the baby on your lap and the toddler ramming a toy car into your ankle as you pee (and silently weep for solitude). Running is the perfect opportunity for peace.
Remember when race-day prep was all about you? About eating a carb-heavy meal the night before, getting adequate sleep and having your race bag packed well in advance? These days, it’s all about making sure the kids have had breakfast and been to the loo, packing enough snacks for bribery and remembering the changing bag. If you wolf down a slice of toast before the starting gun and remember to pin on your race number, YOU’RE WINNING.
Back in the day, I thought support wouldn’t get better than the time I ran the London Marathon: crowds ten deep; roaring noise; strangers cheering my name. WRONG. Fast forward six years to the time I heard my three-year-old’s voice yelling, ‘Keep Running Mummy!’ as I slogged up a hill. That memory keeps me going on EVERY run.
There’s nothing like the thrill of getting back into a training regime… only to have your child unexpectedly vomit all over your ASICS as you’re heading out the door. Here’s the thing: you can be as dedicated as you like, but once you’re a parent, flexibility is paramount.
Yes, running is important, but kids get sick, partners work late and babysitters cancel. Simply do what you can and don’t beat yourself up if you miss sessions.
Once you have sat for 36 hours straight with a poorly child; when you have hugged them, and worried about them, and wiped their brow, and rubbed their back, and felt the kind of love that means you would take on ANY pain if only they could feel better, what’s a little race? Perspective is a wonderful thing. You will nail this sh*t.
Oh boy, your vagina has been through a LOT. Childbirth puts huge strain on your pelvic floor and running can exacerbate this. So do those pelvic floor exercises, ladies! If you didn’t do them during pregnancy, start immediately – imagine your pelvic floor muscle as a hammock strung between your pelvic bone and tail bone, and focus on drawing it up and in. This is THE most important exercise you can do post-childbirth (no-one wants to do a little wee while they run).
I’m a big believer in not giving a f*ck about weight loss. Focus on health, on strength, on eating well, on your next running challenge, on loving your family, on laughter, on adventure. Do not focus on a number on the bathroom scales. It’s not important.
Now you’re a mum, you’ll find most of your life qualifies as cross-training: pushing a buggy loaded with shopping bags while dragging a toddler on a scooter up a hill? Check. Pushing a child on a swing for 17 hours: check. Scrubbing strawberry petit filous off the carpet: check. You might not have time to make it to the gym these days, but trust me, you’re doing your strength work!
Even 10 minutes of yoga a few times a week will do wonders for your strength, ease post-run aches and help you relax. Plus, kids LOVE yoga, so if your little ones join in, you can also bask in your positive role model glory.
Oh, sleep. How we miss you. One day we will be reunited. Until then, we have made good friends with caffeine.
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*Originally featured on The Running Bug*